At first, Kelly Pavlik versus Miguel Espino on Saturday night, Dec. 19 might not sound like a good bout, but it has the potential to be better than we might expect.
Espino has not had the level of competition Pavlik has had nor the rewards that come with being a middleweight champ. However, he is ranked in the Top 10 by the WBC and that entitles him to take on Pavlik in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio. With the hometown advantage, you have to figure Pavlik will bring his A-game.
If Pavlik is going to lose at home, it has to be by knockout or a lopsided scorecard. It is unlikely the judges will see fit to award a majority decision to Espino if it goes the full rounds. That’s just reality in the boxing world. It’s not fair but it is always the case in these types of situations.
Espino is no slouch and is looking for respect as well as a path to a better payday. He will look to counter Pavlik’s reach advantage with body shots, try and mix it up close where he can attempt to wear Pavlik down. Not many opponents have been able to do that, but if Espino’s camp wants to educate themselves on a gameplan that works, look at Pavlik’s dismantling by Bernard Hopkins. That is how it will have to go for Espino to have a realistic chance in this one.
Some observers have said Pavlik is fighting Espino because he is not ready for Paul Williams, a much more prominent foe. Prevailing logic says Pavlik needs time for his hand to heal from a staph infection. Prevailing logic also says “The Ghost” should be able to get the job done against Espino with his one good hand.
But let’s not be too hasty with that projection of easy victory. Espino has pride and is hungry. He’s not coming in to Youngstown as a tomato can. He wants to climb the ladder.
Promoter Bob Arum is counting on that intensity from Espino. It is no doubt the reasoning for making the fight available on an independent pay-per-view "Latin Fury" broadcast. This means Pavlik will be “El Fantasma.”
Espino is the tailor-made underdog with heart, battling his way out of the barrio of Los Angeles.
The reality is Pavlik needs to win this fight in order to keep his WBC belt. Then he can advance to even bigger paydays than he has accomplished through fights with Jermain Taylor, Hopkins, etc.
As for Espino, he has his work cut out for him but his preparation gives him an advantage. The Ghost will not be able to sleepwalk through this fight.